Maintenance & Operations (Managing The Physical Plant)

That's What I Say

One day recently I found myself on a roll, reciting saying after saying in all manner of situations. That got me wondering… just how many facilities-related colloquialisms do I know and just what do I mean by them?

There are so many, but I thought I’d share some of my standards, and ask that you send me any that you regularly use.

Time Waits for No One, nor Do Problems

Let’s start with, “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over?” I probably think this one more than I actually say it, as I watch our facilities staff rush through their work orders each day only to get called back on some… a small number in the grand scheme, but a nuisance nonetheless. I try to teach patient, methodical work whenever possible, but it just doesn’t always work that way.

A classic saying for facilities managers is, “It may not be my fault, but it certainly is my problem!” This could be a motivational poster heading in each of our offices. Things such as equipment failures or areas not getting cleaned happen on our campuses all the time and we must not take it personally when we hear or see it. We should not be thin-skinned in our line of work, and should not focus on where fault lies. We should focus on taking ownership of the issue. When things break down or systems get out of whack, whatever the issue may be, make those issues your problem and successfully resolve them.

I have been known to say (in the proper company, of course), “I’ll take luck over skill every day!” While this sentiment isn’t really true, there is a hint of reality to it. I value true expertise and love to work with people who possess it. The truth is, as facilities leaders, we simply cannot possess the level of expertise necessary to be able to address each and every possible scenario; our campuses’ needs are much too diverse. We shouldn’t rely too heavily on “luck” in anything we do. It is vital that we make it our mission to know as much as we can about as many things as we can. That said, there comes a time where we need just a bit of luck to get through the day!

Share the Load

On the idea that we can supplement our skill with a touch of luck, one of my favorite sayings is, “When in doubt, sub it out!” Because I cannot possibly possess knowledge of every possible situation (though my wife and a few close friends would argue that I believe to the contrary), there are times when we need to bring in an expert in a specific field. This can apply to anything from equipment to engineering, dishwashers to desiccant wheels. Highly skilled technicians need to know their limits. It is often those folks that are the hardest to convince when it’s time to call in the cavalry, as technical types are a proud and tenacious lot. I make sure to point out to anyone in this situation that this is not admitting defeat, but is instead allowing someone else an opportunity to succeed!

How about, “Measure twice, cut once”? Certainly this began as a term specific to carpentry, but when we back up and look at this from a higher level, we can apply this as an analogy to a great number of things. I encourage my tradesmen to be certain of their measurements, but this applies to so many other things as well. Essentially, we need to do proper planning throughout a process or project, and then be sure to check our work before we make it a final product.

I’ll close with what may well or should be the facilities managers’ creed: “Under-promise and over-deliver!”

I can think of only a very few times where I actually set out to set up my team for success following the meaning of this creed. However, I can honestly say that we are a practical lot, and setting proper expectations of those we work with is important. If you are not sure how long something will take add a bit of time to it to allow for the outside forces that could affect it, then if all goes well, the job will be done sooner and you and your team are seen as heroes. If you tell someone what he or she want to hear in order to move along, you could well end up on the receiving end of a problem… don’t make that problem your fault!

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at Stegemik@berkeleyprep.org.

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